The survey was entitled “Natural/Birth Mom Perceptions in Closed Adoption.” A link to the survey (through Survey Monkey) was shared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and this blog over a 2-week timeframe: October 11-October 25, 2017. In all, there were 226 respondents. Of those, 19 were removed due to parameter filters. One respondent was manually removed for revealing private names and locations. In its final form, there were 206 respondents.
The parameters were that 1) The respondent must be 18 or older 2) The respondent must have placed at least 1 child in a Closed Adoption at birth or within 1 year from birth 3) The respondent was not related to the adoptive family 4) The child placed for adoption was not removed by Child Protective Services.
There will be an additional post to follow that will display the 146 free-form responses from the respondents. A link to the survey results will be posted at the end of this post. Unlike our previous posts, there will not be a link provided to the next survey here. It will be provided in the free-from response post that is to come later this week. Our next survey will be for Adult Adoptee Perceptions in International Adoption. It will be released the first week of November, 2017. For more information in regards to upcoming surveys, please follow us here, or on our “Adoption Surveys” Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts.
Margin of error calculator (provided by Survey Monkey)
Questions 1, 2, 3, and 81 were required in order to set the parameters for the survey, as stated above. The remaining 90 questions were optional. There were 19 questions skipped by 1% (2) of the respondents. There were no questions skipped by more than 4 respondents. There were 24 questions that offered an “other” comment box. There were a total of 471 “other” comments. They were all taken into account and will be referenced as they relate.
- 93% (192) of respondents placed only 1 child into a Closed Adoption
- 2% (5) of respondents placed 2 or more children into a Closed Adoption due to multiples; twins, triplets, etc
- 4% (9) of respondents placed 2 or more children into a Closed Adoption at separate events (different dates)
- 92% (191) placed their first child into a Closed Adoption
- 65% (134) of respondents placed a child into a Closed Adoption when they were between the ages of 15-19 years old
- 30% (63) of respondents placed a child into a Closed Adoption when they were between the ages of 20-25 years old
Respondents placed a child into a Closed Adoption equally between 2 decades; the 1960s and 1970s (31%, 64). Those decades were closely followed by the 1980s (27%, 56). Respondents were asked to check all that applied as to why they placed a child into a Closed Adoption. There were six answers that received a majority: being unwed (69%, 144), having no social support (65%, 135), financial instability (59%, 123), coercion/threatened (51%, 106), age factor (48%, 100), and societal pressure (43%, 90). There were 51 (24%) free-form responses that included reasons such as self-doubt, “Poor self-esteem, felt I would “damage” my child if I kept her” as well as industry grooming, “groomed to believe I was just a vessel, not my son’s mother, and that adopters were his ‘real parents’ . I was told this repeatedly during my pregnancy.” It was also mentioned often that respondents didn’t know they could choose another option, “I didn’t know I could legally keep her.”
Adoption agencies facilitated the majority of adoptions with 43% (88) of cases. The remainder were spread out equally among diverse options that included private attorneys, maternity homes, social workers, and charitable organizations. An option not given, but mentioned frequently in the “other” comment section was medical staff, “A doctor at a hospital in Rochester, Ny who had arranged many adoptions in the 80’s.”
- 36% (74) of respondents lived in a maternity home during their pregnancies
- 7% (16) lived in “wage homes” during their pregnancies
- 82% (169) were American citizens at the time of adoption. Other respondents were citizens of Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Zimbabwe, Denmark, and Norway.
- 94% (194) said their child was adopted into the same country as where they were a citizen
- 18% (39) were taken to another state/province/country to deliver their child
- 6% (14) of respondents are also adoptees
- 3% (7) have had a child(ren) removed by Child Protective Services in addition to the child(ren) placed into a Closed Adoption
Respondents were asked about support from those around them when it came to an adoption plan; family, the child’s father, and their friends. In regards to family, the most frequent answer (39%, 80) was that family “coerced/threatened” the respondent into an adoption plan. It was closely followed by family support of an adoption plan (29%, 61). There were 3 options that garnered nearly equal response in regards to how the child’s father responded to an adoption plan; (24% 51) he supported, (24% 50) he was indifferent, and (22% 47) he did not know that he was the father of the child. Abandonment was an option not given, but offered in the “other” comment section, “He left me.” When it came to friends of the respondents, the majority did not know there was a pregnancy (43% 88), “I had no friends with whom I shared my predicament.”
If a respondent was advised not to tell the father of the child of her pregnancy, it was most frequently suggested by the adoption facilitator (8% 17), “My agency was ALL too happy to instruct me to not put him on the birth certificate ( unknown) so they ONLY had to post a notice in the legal section and NOT inform him. As an adult, attorney in NYC, he could have upset their little plan!”
- 2% (6) of adoption facilitators gave resources for parenting
- 17% (36) of respondents received financial assistance during their pregnancy by the adoption facilitator
- 33% (69) were referred to as a “birth” mother prior to placement
- 6% (13) received legal counsel prior to placement
- 3% (8) believe that the adoption of their child was “God’s Will”
- 10% (22) were informed of their rights prior to placement
- 70% (145) were not asked directly if they wanted to parent
- 7% (16) signed a pre-birth consent papers
If a respondent was made to feel “selfish” if they expressed a desire to parent it was done so by the respondent’s family (45% 93) and the adoption facilitator (43% 90) in most cases. An option not provided, but frequently mentioned in the comment section was medical staff, “By a nurse at the hospital, I was told to stop breast feeding because my son was going to be adopted.” There were comments that the respondents were made to feel “selfish” by society, “By society in general and overall.”
If a respondent was told that adoption was “God’s Will”, it was mostly said by the adoption facilitator (17% 35), their own family (14% 30), or their religious leader (12% 26). If an adoption was intended to be a secret, it was most often done so by the respondent’s family (64% 133). The adoption has remained a secret in 7% (15) of cases, “It was a secret until reunion. I was told to forget about it and never mention it again!” If a respondent was “shamed” during pregnancy, that too was most often done so by the respondent’s family (62% 129).
The overwhelming majority of respondents were told their child would have a “better” life through Closed Adoption and they were most often told this by the adoption facilitator (72% 150) and their families (63% 130). Respondents commented that it was a societal belief as well, “All of society believed that – my employer, my Social Worker and health care team all said so.”
Labor and Delivery
- 21% (44) of respondents said the adoption facilitator and/or its representative was present at the hospital/birthing center at birth
- 11% (24) said the adoption facilitator and/or its representative was present in the delivery room at birth
- 32% (67) signed TPR (Termination of Parental Rights) papers in the hospital/birthing center before discharge
- 2% (6) said they never signed TPR papers at all
The time of signing TPR papers after birth widely varied. It was evenly distributed over various options. The most frequent response was that the respondent did not remember (20% 42) how much time passed after birth when papers were signed.
- 63% (128) of respondents wanted to back out of the adoption plan after birth
- 73% (149) felt pressured to sign TPR papers
- 15% (32) were under the influence of pain medication when they signed TPR papers
- 63% (129) were unaware that they had a right to revoke their decision to place their child in a Closed Adoption
- 4% (10) said they were not allowed revocation upon signature
- 0.49% (1) respondent said that the revocation time a mother has should be shorter
- 19% (39) said they were threatened by adoption facilitators with legal action after expressing a desire to back out of adoption
- 87% (179) said they felt “obligated” to place their child for adoption.
- 16% (33) experienced infertility after placing a child in Closed Adoption
After birth, there were various ways of interaction between the respondent and the child. The majority of respondents had an opportunity to hold their child (54% 112). Some respondents were not allowed to either see or hold their child after birth (18% 38). One respondent commented, “I was told that I could [hold child] but that it would be better for everyone if I didn’t. They told me it would be too hard on me.” Another respondent commented, “I was not allowed to see or hold my child but I threw a fit and got to hold her for 10 minutes.”
The majority of respondents were either told to “move on” or “get over” the child that was placed in a Closed Adoption. Most were told either by their family (61% 127) or the adoption facilitator (50% 103). Other sources that expected respondents to “get over” or “move on” from the loss of their child were friends, religious leaders, the child’s father, social workers, medical staff, future husbands, and society in general. Only 7% of respondents said they have been able to “move on” or “get over” the child that was placed in a Closed Adoption. Comments included, “NO. I will never be able to “get over” it. It was so traumatic and it plagues me even more as I get older because of the unfairness of it all. It’s damaged my whole life and my self esteem is absolutely zero.” Another commented in regards to “getting over” Closed Adoption, “I thought I had but after reuniting with my child I learned I had blocked a lot of the emotions and memories and am finally working on healing from it.” And another respondent said, “I shut down and denied my true feelings of loss and regret for many years. I realize now that I will be dealing with these feelings for the rest of my life.”
It was asked if respondents had discovered the identity of their relinquished child when they were a minor and if they secretly monitored the child’s well-being. There were 11% (23) of respondents who said they did and another 11% (23) who said they attempted to discover their child’s identity, but they were unsuccessful. One respondent said, “I was told within months who adopted him. The man worked in one of the two grocery store [sic] and he was a good man so I prayed for the best outcome.”
There were many questions on the survey that touched on mental health in relation to Closed Adoption. The first section dealt with counseling before and after placement.
- 24% (49) of adoption facilitators offered adoption counseling prior to placement
- 21% (45) of respondents received adoption counseling prior to placement
- 10% (22) of adoption facilitators offered adoption counseling after placement
- 10% (21) of respondents received adoption counseling after placement
- 6% (13) of respondents said that their experiences with counseling were helpful
Respondents were asked about how they adjusted to their lives after adoption. In the first year of placement, 75% (153) said that their adjustment was “extremely difficult.” Another 19% (40) said that their adjustment was “difficult.” It was asked of respondents how they adjusted over time and 68% (140) said it has “gotten more difficult” whereas 24% (50) said it has “gotten easier.”
- 5% (12) of respondents said that Closed Adoption has “worked well” for them
- 66% (138) said they suffer with insomnia
- 80% (166) said they suffer with depression
- 58% (120) said they developed PTSD or another mental disorder following placement
- 40% (83) have received therapy directly related to Closed Adoption
- 40% (84) have considered or attempted suicide in direct relation to Closed Adoption
- 55% (115) said they have suffered amnesia in regards to adoption details
- 31% (65) struggled with substance abuse at some point after placement
One question asked respondents if they have ever struggled with the idea of who they became versus who they might have been without Closed Adoption. The majority 87% (179) answered that they have struggled. Respondents were asked if Closed Adoption affected their sense of self-worth. There were 6% (13) who said their self-worth was affected in a positive way whereas 84% (173) said their self-worth was affected in a negative way.
Life After Closed Adoption
Respondents were asked how they would describe their overall feeling about Closed Adoption. Two options garnered the majority of responses; anger (46% 96) and sadness (36% 76). They were followed by confusion (3% 7), peaceful (2% 5), indifference (2% 5), grateful (0.97% 2), and happiness (0%). Additional comments included, “pathological grief; chronic post traumatic stress, suicidal; rage.” Another stated, “All of the above. Was my only child.” A few additional comments were, “Mixed emotions – changes over time”, “Like walking dead”, and “It’s more than anger, it’s more like rage.” Some respondents have come to different conclusions on adoption in general with one respondent saying, “There are things that should be changed but I am not totally against it” and another, “I don’t support adoption for the most part now.” Respondents were asked what they would consider themselves in regards to adoption; for or against. The majority identified themselves as anti-adoption at 77% (157), followed by pro-adoption at 9% (20) and indifferent at 12% (25).
- 68% (142) of respondents think of their child placed in Closed Adoption on a daily basis
- 12% (25) think of their child placed in Closed Adoption on an hourly basis
- 58% (120) said their immediate family was affected for the worst after Closed Adoption
- 5% (12) said their immediate family was affected for the best after Closed Adoption
- 83% (171) find adoption anniversary days triggering
- 95% (196) would not recommend Closed Adoption to an expectant mother
- 91% (187) regret that their child was placed for adoption
- 2% (5) of respondents would describe Closed Adoption as an “empowering” choice
The subject of abortion was briefly touched on. The respondents identified themselves as pro-choice (65% 134), pro-life (29% 61), or indifferent (4% 10). Of all respondents, 33% (68) have had an abortion in addition to placing a child in a Closed Adoption. The respondents were then asked which decision, abortion or Closed Adoption, they have been more at peace with. 54 respondents stated they have been more at peace with their decision to abort over their decision to place in a Closed Adoption. There are 2% (5) of respondents who have adopted a baby in a Closed Adoption and 9% (19) would or have considered adopting a baby in a Closed Adoption.
The topic of adoptees’ original birth certificates was covered. It was asked if the respondents were made aware that their child’s birth certificate would either be altered and/or sealed, 55% (113) answered that they were not informed of this policy. Another 17% (36) do not remember being told that their child’s original birth certificate would be altered and/or sealed. In regards to adoptees having a right to their original birth certificate, 99% (204) of the respondents were in favor.
Respondents were asked various questions about their family life after Closed Adoption. In 22% (46) of cases, respondents never had any other children. It was asked if the children parented by the respondents had suffered the absence of their sibling that had been adopted, and 47% (97) of respondents said “yes”. Another 4% (10) parented children do not know that they have a sibling who was adopted. The majority of respondents (62% 128) believe that Closed Adoption affected their parenting style with their other children.
Respondents were also asked about their professional success after Closed Adoption. The majority (46% 95) said that they were professionally successful in spite of Closed Adoption. There were 2% (6) who said they were professionally successful because of adoption. One respondent commented,”I went on to graduate and have a career, but I can never say that this was because of or in spite of adoption. I could have achieved these things with my child, it just would have been a different path (part-time college rather than full-time, for example).”
- 94% (192) of respondents wish they had parented the child they placed in a Closed Adoption
- 90% (187) have looked for their child in stranger’s faces
- 96% (197) have hoped for reunion with their child placed in Closed Adoption
- 83% (173) have been in reunion with their child placed in Closed Adoption
- 6% (14) are presently in search for their child placed in Closed Adoption
- 1% (4) have chosen not to search for their child placed in Closed Adoption at this time
- 2% (6) have not felt they have the right to search for their child placed in Closed Adoption
- 89% (182) believe their personal relationships have suffered due to their adoption experience
- 66% (136) believe their relationships have suffered with those they felt coerced/threatened them into relinquishment
In closing, respondents were asked if they thought Closed Adoption was the best arrangement for families or if there was a better arrangement. They were asked to check all options that applied or offer additional commentary. In order of response, “Preserving a biological family” received the majority with 86% (177). It was followed by Guardianship 40% (83), Kinship Adoption 34% (71), Open Adoption 22% (47), Foster Care 5% (12), and Closed Adoption 1% (3). Additional commentary included, “Depends on the situation. There is no one right way. It was probably best for me at the time.” Another commented, “Supporting young pregnant women through temporary periods of crisis and teaching them to parent is the best solution for everyone.” Another, “Each situation is Unique closed adoption could be best but….Who may be the judge/ decision makers?¿!¡” And lastly, “Anything is better than closed adoption. kinship adoption, open adoption, temporary foster care, guardianship…but best is to support parent and child together.”
We would like to thank the respondents who shared their experience with us. Adoption Surveys knows that stories of Adoption can be emotional and it takes incredible courage to share such sensitive and vulnerable information. We thank you.
If you found this post to be interesting or informative, please feel free to share it. Also, please follow us for upcoming surveys. We can be found under the name “Adoption Surveys” on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in addition to this blog.
Our upcoming survey for November, 2017 is for Adult Adoptee Perceptions in International Adoption. A link will be shared on the next post which will include the free-form responses from the Natural/Birth Mom Perceptions in Closed Adoption.
A link to the results for the Natural/Birth Mom Perceptions in Closed Adoption can be found here: